Springtime in Korea

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Thursday, May 22, 2014


IT’S no secret that I am a fan of KPOP. What’s not to like about it with its catchy tunes, pretty people, and flashy dances?

And with that little tidbit out of the way, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I begged my mom [Bacolod Councilor Em Ang] to take me with her to Korea when she and other delegates of the Bacolod City Host Lions Club were invited to attend the 45th charter anniversary of their sister club, Icheon Lions Club.

Even though I was there last month to accompany my mom in a conference and this time around was my brother’s turn to go, I was able to convince my mom to bring me.

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After all, I did all the elbow-cranking in buying the tickets and heading over to the Korean Embassy to apply for a visa. Surprisingly, applying for the visa was pretty fast if you have all the requirements in hand. In fact, I finished 8:40 a.m., a good 20 minutes before they were to open office. Talk about efficiency. The first step towards my Korea trip was already going pretty smoothly.

Korea is becoming the trend vacation spot as it continues to capture the attention of the world – and I don’t mean by doing the horse dance and swinging an imaginary lasso ala Psy in Gangnam Style. The country rightfully boasts all that it has to offer – cherry blossoms of Yeouido for Spring, beaches of Jeju and Haeundae for Summer, fall foliage all around Seoul for Autumn, and ski resorts and hot springs for Winter. It is a country truly worthy of a visit at any time.

Our week in Korea was spent half in Icheon and half in Seoul. And though a week might sound like a lot of time to tour the country, we often found ourselves trying to cram in as many activities as possible. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week were just not enough. There are simply too many things you would want to do.

We had to dedicate a whole day to Nami Island alone. For the Koreanovela lovers out there, the enchanting half-moon shaped island is where they shot numerous dramas and variety shows – the most popular being the drama, Winter Sonata.

It was easy to get lost along the pathways lined with tall chestnut, gingko, maple and mulberry trees. The scenery looked like it was taken straight out of a romantic drama and there would be music playing in the background mixing with the sound of leaves crunching beneath your feet. You stand in the middle of the seemingly endless road and take in one long look at nature. It was breathtaking.

Everland was another destination that was, in the most literal sense, “breathtaking." “Korea’s Disneyland” is how our Korean friends described the 250-acre amusement park and resort. It was another day full of fun and camaraderie for us as we circled the park testing our courage on every ride. But being frequent amusement park-goers, my brother and I were quite accustomed to the big rides. Nevertheless, it was fun seeing such serious people like the Lions let loose in this massive playground.

Apart from the indispensable trip to Gyeongbok Palace and retail therapy in Seoul, another highlight of our trip came in the form of the OGN Champion Spring Tournament. What stroke of luck it was that we were in town to catch a semifinals match. Korea has been dominating the e-gaming scene for quite some time and we could not pass up the opportunity to watch the world’s best teams compete. All it took was an hour and a half long train ride to get to the e-Sports Stadium at Yongsan in Seoul and a two-hour trip back to Icheon where we were staying. It was very fortunate for us to catch the game this season as gaming tourism is starting to become a popular attraction in Korea. In fact, there were many foreigners in attendance that night alone.

Each day was a new adventure whether it came in the form of trying to communicate with a local through the simplest words and gestures, or eating Korea’s notoriously spicy food, or meeting Seo Kwang Soo, a master ceramic potter whose single piece of artwork could pay for a car – no exaggeration. For all of us, it was a week-long getaway, a momentary paradise, from work and studies.

Alas, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and, surely enough, our week in Korea came and went. And though I was not able to catch any KPOP-related event as I had planned since all broadcasts and performances had been cancelled in respect to the tragic ferry incident, I left the beautiful country without an ungratified feeling in my body.

From the kind hospitality shown to us by our hosts, the striking and colorful flowers that seemed to grow everywhere, the maletas full of gifts and good finds from shops, to the happy memories stowed away in our hearts and cameras, we returned home without wanting – well, perhaps wanting to stay a little bit longer or to be able to bring with us the cool weather. (Leska Ang)

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The writer is a graduate of AB Management Economics from Ateneo De Manila University and Chinese Studies at Sun Yat Sen University in China. She is currently taking up Law.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 22, 2014.

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